Our Gem: Lake survey results are in
During the summer of 2021, the Our Gem Coeur d’Alene Lake Collaborative community lake perception survey received over 1,000 responses. Based on the demographic questions, about 60% of survey respondents live in Kootenai County, with others weighing in from nearby counties. Only about 20% own property or have friends or family members with property directly on the Coeur d’Alene Lake. The most representative age groups are 35-44 and 55-64 years old.
When asked about opinions of water quality in Coeur d’Alene Lake, the community was split. About 42% felt water quality was pretty good or excellent, 28% felt it was about average, and about 33% felt it was not so good or poor. The issues of most concern were invasive aquatic species, heavy metals, commercial and residential development, and septic system pollution. The issue of negative attention caused by EPA Superfund cleanup activities was of lowest concern. Respondents felt they had a high or very high understanding of issues such as healthy aquatic oxygen levels, heavy metals, and shoreline erosion, but felt they had a low or very low understanding of untreated stormwater and environmental regulations impacting property values and recreation.
About 75% of survey participants were unaware that Coeur d’Alene Lake is part of the Bunker Hill Superfund Site, but that no EPA remediation is taking place on the Lake.
When participants were given the opportunity to comment on other possible threats to the Lake, many responses included growing populations, lake overuse, rising water temperatures and the harm of shorelines due to wake boats. One survey participant said, “My livelihood depends on tourism in the area and I believe that maintaining good, clean water, curbing overdevelopment and holding entities accountable for pollution are in the best interest of all of us in the Inland Northwest.”
Locals and tourists, young and old citizens alike, share a passion for our local gem. “Absolutely love Lake Coeur d' Alene. I am 83 years old and can't do much more than enjoy its beauty. It gives me much joy.”
Many of us spend significant amounts of time recreating on the lake; over 40% of respondents walk or run along the lake at least monthly when weather is suitable. Nearly 40% swim at least monthly, 28% bike along the lake regularly and 24% canoe, kayak or paddleboard on the lake monthly. One participant wrote, “Even though I don't live on the lake or use it much for recreational opportunities, it is an integral part of our area's ecosystem. It needs to be valued and protected, with appropriate conservation measures.”
Despite all the changes in this area, locals seem optimistic about the future.
“With growth at an all-time high, I am hopeful that new residents can be educated about our lakes, rivers and streams. I hope people will understand and appreciate these important resources and value them for recreation, ecology and cultural history” one participant stated.
The Our Gem Coeur d’Alene Lake Collaborative would like to thank everyone who participated in the survey and to the community groups who donated survey prizes: Dogsmile Adventures, North Idaho Laser Made, and Idaho State Department of Parks and Recreation. The responses from this survey will help guide the future outreach and education messages from the Our Gem Coeur d’Alene Lake Collaborative.
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The Our Gem Coeur d’Alene Lake Collaborative is a team of committed and passionate professionals working to preserve lake health and protect water quality by promoting community awareness of local water resources through education, outreach and stewardship. Our Gem includes local experts from the University of Idaho Community Water Resource Center, Coeur d’Alene Tribe Lake Management Department, Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, Kootenai Environmental Alliance, Kootenai County, Coeur d’Alene Regional Chamber and CDA 2030.